The EcoHelmet. Its honeycomb design gives it strength. Photograph: Handout
The inventor of a foldable bicycle helmet has won a £30,000 prize to take it towards commercialisation.
The “EcoHelmet” is the brainchild of Isis Shiffer, a 28-year-old designer and bike enthusiast from New York who came up with the idea after she began using city bike-hire schemes but was worried about cycling without a helmet.
A team led by researchers at Harvard University has produced the first untethered, autonomous, “soft” robot. Dubbed “Octobot,” because of its octopus-inspired design, the robot was created using a combination of 3D printing, molding, and soft lithography and has no rigid parts like a circuit board or battery. The researchers, who published their work in the journal, Nature, this month, hope their proof of concept will lay the foundation for a new generation of soft robots with the flexibility and dexterity to move and operate in tight spaces.
A Canadian company known as Carbon Engineering (CE) has designed an innovative technology to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and utilizing the captured carbon dioxide for the generation of ultra low carbon intensity liquid fuels.
Scientists at the University of Sheffield have created a computer model of how bees avoid hitting walls – which could be a breakthrough in the development of autonomous robots.
Researchers from the Department of Computer Science built their computer model to look at how bees use vision to detect the movement of the world around them and avoid crashes.
Bees control their flight using the speed of motion – or optic flow – of the visual world around them, but it is not known how they do this. The only neural circuits so far found in the insect brain can tell the direction of motion, not the speed.
This study suggests how motion-direction detecting circuits could be wired together to also detect motion-speed, which is crucial for controlling bees’ flight.
“Honeybees are excellent navigators and explorers, using vision extensively in these tasks, despite having a brain of only one million neurons,” said Dr Alex Cope, lead researcher on the paper.
“Understanding how bees avoid walls, and what information they can use to navigate, moves us closer to the development of efficient algorithms for navigation and routing – which would greatly enhance the performance of autonomous flying robotics”, he added.
Professor James Marshall, lead investigator on the project, added: “This is the reason why bees are confused by windows – since they are transparent they generate hardly any optic flow as bees approach them.”
Dr Cope and his fellow researchers on the project; Dr Chelsea Sabo, Dr Eleni Vasilaki, Professor Kevin Gurney, and Professor James Marshall, are now using this research to investigate how bees understand which direction they are pointing in and use this knowledge to solve tasks.
Hellisheiði geothermal plant, Iceland. Photograph Pedro Alvarez for the Observer
Thanks to its position on a volatile section of the Mid-Atlantic ridge, Iceland is a world leader in the the use of geothermal energy, and of the six geothermal power plants in Iceland, Hellisheiði (pronounced “het-li-shay-thee”) is the newest and largest. Fully operational since 2010, it sits on the mossy slopes of the Hengill volcano in the south-west of the country; a green and placid-looking landscape that belies the turbulent geological activity rumbling beneath it.
Researchers have used an artificial protein to assemble a buckyball molecule—opening the door to new methods of nano-engineering.
The dream of nanotechnology is to harness it to control the material world at its most fundamental level—to manipulate matter at the molecular and atomic scale.
It’s a dream that is held by scientists in many fields—medicine, materials research, electronics, computing, and others too numerous to list. The struggle has been in how to actually achieve such a precision control of matter. Sadly, the quantum effects at this level often defeat any such attempts, and have proven difficult to surmount.
A team of students created an architectural system that can move, shape-shift, and make decisions on what structures to build based on its analysis of local data. The students hope the system will replace current urban planning practices.